The Macao Community Development Initiative convened a press conference on March 26 to make plain the intention of the forthcoming protest on March 28 is to “get the public voice heard” so that the government can formulate a more pragmatic consumption voucher scheme that benefits all walks of life in Macau.
Earlier on March 23, Macau’s Chief Executive (CE) Ho Iat Seng made an apology to the public for the byzantine red tape involved in the MOP5 billion e-voucher program, part of the third round of stimulus package announced earlier on March 15.
The preparation of the scheme was “not thorough enough,” which sparked a spate of criticism in town, Ho admitted.
Ho vowed that the government would listen to the public and seek to rethink the scheme. The roll-out of the e-voucher scheme — if unable to be commenced in May — will be postponed to June this year. aa
However, he acknowledged it would be “difficult” to reinstate the previous scheme of prepaid consumption cards, given the heavy workload.
“The protest will still be of great significance, even following the apology made earlier by the city’s CE Ho Iat Seng,” vice chairman of the Macau Community Development Initiative and lawmaker Au Kam San stressed earlier at the media briefing.
Considering it’s not easy for grassroots to get their voices heard, protest and the petition can play as a channel for them to convey their opinions to the authorities.
“We think the government should not rework the scheme behind closed doors again,” Au said.
In 2020, the SAR government introduced the first two rounds of prepaid consumption card programs, which distributed MOP3,000 and MOP5,000 to every Macau ID holder in May and August 2020, respectively.
However, this year’s e-voucher scheme requires an individual to spend first before being granted an e-voucher. It also involves more constraints regarding the granting and redemption of e-vouchers.
The alliance urged the government to scrap the “cumbersome” e-voucher scheme and relaunch the consumption card — which lawmaker António Ng Kuok Cheong
stated, is more effective to help take the edge off the financial hardship the impoverished households are facing.
Ng said both schemes have their pros and cons. However, the current scheme is designed for “those who have disposable income to spend on unnecessary goods, but not for those who have been scraping by on a limited amount of money.”
Cloee Chao, the president of the New Macau Gaming Staff Rights Association, also presided over the media briefing today. She stated the city’s unemployment rate has been on the rise and urged the government to relaunch consumption cards in due course.
As of March 25, they had gathered around 25,000 online and 4,000 offline signatures from residents for the petition, which will be delivered to Macau Government Headquarters on the coming Sunday.
The large amount of signatures collected in a short period of time is a testament to strong demand among the public for consumption cards, Chao explained.
Ng urged the government not to procrastinate whilst reexamining the scheme and implement an enhanced version as early as possible, as some have been in desperate need of financial succor.
The Public Security Police Force (PSP) mandated lawmaker Au’s request to protest against the consumer e-voucher scheme on March 28. However, all demonstraters are required to wear a mask during the protest and observe social distancing measures required by the Health Bureau (SSM).